YouGov and ICM have consistently shown the Tories at 36-41%, while Populus show smaller leads and MORI have been inconsistent. The trend in all polls show the LibDems declining in support, although I don't believe the 14% figure for a moment. As we look forward to 2007 it seems to be that the true level of Tory support is around 37-38%, Labour are on 32-33% and the LibDems are on 18-19%.
It seems to me that by the middle of the year the Tories should be polling 38-42% to be confident that they are on course. If that is to happen I expect LibDem support to decline a per centage point or two. I do not expect Labour to go down much more than 31-32%.
Of course the big question is this: what will happen when Gordon Brown takes over? My instinct is that he may well get a honeymoon bounce of a few per centage points, but this may well come at the expense of the LibDems. At the moment the LibDems have managed to end a difficult year in better fettle than they could reasonably have expected. But this is largely because they have replaced their exiting Tory supporters with disaffected Labour voters. Picture a turnstile with Labour voters entering the LibDem turnstile and Tories exiting. That steady flow of disaffected Labour supporters may well dry up once Brown becomes Labour leader.
If I'm right we could expect to see a gradual return to two party politics. Or not. The fact is that it can never quite happen like that as long as the fringe parties continue to grow in support. In the 1970s and 1980s voters mainly had a choice of two parties, or possibly the Liberals. Now there are UKIP, the Greens, the BNP, the nationalist parties in Wales and Scotland to whom devolution has given an unexpected boost.
And that explains why it will be difficult for any Party to ever poll more than the low forties. This means that one of the key Tory strategies over the two years before the election must be to convince people of this self evident fact:
The only way to get rid of Gordon Brown is to vote for David Cameron
Expect to hear a lot of that in the run-up to the election.